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Semester Abroad at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam – Arts Management and Cultural Work (B. A.)

Katharina is studying Arts Management and Cultural Work (B. A.) at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. She spent her 6th semester at the partner university Hogeschool van Amsterdam. Here she recounts her semester abroad in the summer semester of 2022.

Hogeschool van Amsterdam
© © Hanne Dahlmann, FH Potsdam 18.07.2022

Katharina's semester abroad in Amsterdam

Katharina is studying cultural work at University of Applied Sciences Potsdam and spent a semester in the Netherlands in 2022 to study at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA). She talks about the reasons that led her to do so, such as her love of the city, but also the opportunities that the university there offered her; among other things, the focus on human rights and community organising. For Katharina, the preparations were simple: apply, learn the language via an app, get on the train and off she went. She talks about her studies and the similarities and differences with the teaching at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. In the interview, she also talks about activities and how she was able to make friends, about her expectations and actual experiences and how she experienced the adventure abroad all in all.

Interview with Katharina

Why did you want to do a semester abroad?

Even before I enrolled at University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, I looked at the partner schools in the degree programme and was sure I wanted to take up the offer of an Erasmus stay. Especially after the many Covid-related online semesters and the considerable time I spent at home, I was longing for something new: new surroundings, a new language, new learning content and experiences. The city of Amsterdam seemed to offer the ideal opportunity. With its enchanted cityscape of canals, green spaces and cosy cafés, as well as its wide range of cultural events, the city had already fascinated me on previous visits.

How did you prepare yourself?

My application process was very smooth and relatively effortless. I sent my letter of motivation for the stay in Amsterdam to the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, received an acceptance letter after a few months, which was followed relatively quickly by the acceptance letter from the partner university. I then started a language course at the adult education centre and also learned basic language skills via the Duolingo app. My journey was very easy, as I didn't have to apply for a visa and could even travel through by train from Berlin.

How did the flat search go?

Since finding a flat/room in Amsterdam turned out to be very difficult due to the high demand, I applied for a place in the halls of residence at the partner university. About two months before my arrival, I received an email telling me to quickly choose the room that suited me best. This turned out to be very stressful, as I only found the email in my mailbox relatively late and thus many centrally located places were already taken and I had less of a good choice left. My hall of residence was a 35-minute bike ride from the centre, which I  quickly got used to. It was also right next to the beautiful Sloterplas lake, which had a large park and beach bordering it. My room was minimally furnished and one drawback was that I had to share the kitchen with 13 other people. Unfortunately, it was very dirty and unhygienic, and due to the anonymity of the corridor residents, there was never a joint cleaning initiative. Overall, the hall of residence was OK and flatmates in other corridors were luckier with the cleanliness, but I sadly lost the joy of cooking over time.

What was it like to study at the partner university?

I felt very well taken care of at my university. We had an introductory event where all the course participants got to know each other. Since we were all enrolled in the same set courses and almost every participant was an Erasmus student, a class feeling quickly developed in the group of about 30 people. There was also a good, sometimes friendly relationship with the teachers, whom we spoke to on familiar terms.

The minor programme "Human Rights and Community Organising" had a strong orientation towards social work, especially since we were supposed to work in a social work field as part of the programme. The university already has cooperation partners for this, and students can usually choose their preferred location. I have to admit that I learned the most during my work placement in a neighbourhood centre. In my opinion the study programme was very superficial in terms of the learning content, there were very few lectures and the lessons were also less appealing to me because of the lack of content.

How high was the cost of living? What leisure and sports activities did you take advantage of?

The cost of living in Amsterdam is relatively high. I paid 470 euros for my rent, shopping was okay in terms of price, but going out was more expensive. Luckily, as a student with little financial security, you are not alone and many friends shared the precautious mindset in terms of money. We cycled almost everywhere, seldom went to bars and hardly ever ate out, but that was perfectly fine. The museums and tourist activities were expensive, but if you were looking for something to do, you could easily find a free concert, an art or music festival with low entry fees or other relatively cheap cultural activities almost every night - and I took advantage of many of them. I also took part in a university sports course at the HvA, which was also cheap and a lot of fun. I can especially recommend a trip to Utrecht by train, a visit to the botanical garden of the VU Amsterdam and the large flea market at the NDSM halls.

Conclusion and tips

I really enjoyed my stay abroad! I really enjoyed the experience of being alone in such a great city and starting from afresh. Unfortunately, I was less excited about my study programme, but all the more excited about the people I met, the places I saw and activities we did together. I can recommend an Erasmus in Amsterdam to anyone who is interested, as the city and the country have a lot to offer in terms of culture. The communication with residents was very friendly and always in perfect English. There are many places to explore around Amsterdam (a bike ride from Amsterdam to the sea, for example, is very worthwhile).

Impressions from Amsterdam